A Nigerian drug trafficking network operating in more than five countries and three continents recruits Venezuelans to operate as “mules” and bring cocaine to Europe.
A report by Alianza Rebelde Investiga (ARI) with journalists in France, Brazil and Venezuela identified connections of the drug trafficking network, which curiously is linked to evangelical pastors in Brazil.
The humanitarian crisis in Venezuela has led national and international criminal gangs to recruit Venezuelans by offering them thousands of dollars. Colombian guerrilla groups, Brazilian drug trafficking gangs or Mexican human trafficking networks already have a long history; however, the novelty is that this time it is a network led by Nigerians.
Venezuelans as “mules”
The investigation began with the arrest of two Venezuelans in Paris at the beginning of 2020, who were carrying almost 200 thimbles of cocaine; the discovery revealed the existence of a network of drug “mules” that connects Venezuela, Brazil, French Guyana, Europe and Africa.
According to ARI, the criminal organization is led by Nigerians and operates from Brazil, who recruit poor and vulnerable Venezuelans to offer them “work”, especially migrant women.
“The Nigerian ringleader of the organization in Boa Vista, Kevin Muroof Ezequiel Salami lived in Venezuela. He is the owner of the Acceso Rápido hotel, the establishment used to house and prepare drug traffickers. Several Venezuelans work there. This man is also a pastor and president of an evangelical church connected to the hotel,” the report states.
Likewise, another Nigerian who controls the operation in Suriname, named Mike, lived in the parish of La Pastora, in Caracas.
“A FLACSO report published in the Latin American Journal of Security Studies in 2019, points out that Nigerian groups export about 90 % of cocaine shipments by “mules” or couriers from Brazil to Africa,” ARI reports.
Venezuela, a bunker for drug traffickers
ARI’s report published by the web portal El Pitazo reveals part of the current situation in Venezuela, a country that has become a refuge for criminal gangs and guerrillas.
The head of the U.S. Southern Command, Craig Faller, affirmed last Friday, October 1, that the tyranny of Nicolás Maduro is a partner and accomplice of drug and human trafficking groups operating in the region.
Faller pointed out that these organizations continue to operate, mainly due to the complicity of the regime that allows them to use Venezuelan territory as a refuge and base of operations, where they can develop their business.
“There are links between transnational criminal organizations and Venezuela, which is a safe shelter for drug trafficking and that stimulates the shipment of drugs to the United States and other countries,” Faller said in statements from Brazil, from where the Nigerian criminal gang operates.